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Matriculating 2015

  • Alysia R. Bryll

    Alysia R. Bryll

    Alysia R. Bryll is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College with a BA in Biological Sciences. Before matriculating as an UMassMed MD/PhD Candidate in 2015, she conducted research at Mass General Hospital investigating the role of retinoblastoma protein in chromosome instability in the lab of Nicholas Dyson. As a research technician, she investigated the long non-coding RNA, TERRA, and the alternative telomere lengthening pathway in the lab of Rachel Flynn at Boston University.


    Prior to joining the lab of Craig Peterson, she rotated in Michael Greene’s lab where she researched the role of miRNA in anoikis resistance in breast cancer. Additionally, she rotated in the lab of Craig Ceol where she worked to characterize T-reg cells of zebrafish. In the Peterson lab, her research is focused on transcriptional buffering or the maintenance of appropriate steady state RNA pools.


    Alysia.Bryll@umassmed.edu

  • Amy Cheung

    Amy Cheung

    Amy Cheung is a 5th year MD/PhD student at UMass Medical School. She graduated from Stony Brook University in 2014 with a BS in Biology, Neuroscience specialization. Before entering the MD/PhD program in 2015, she spent one additional year continuing her research in the lab of Dr. Alfredo Fontanini at Stony Brook University to investigate sensory cue priming of taste processing.


    Amy is interested in neural mechanisms contributing to the output of different behaviors. She rotated in the labs of Drs. Dorothy Schafer (microglia-neuron interactions), Andrew Tapper (addiction) and Judson Brewer (mindfulness). She is currently in the lab of Dr. Kensuke Futai where she works on her thesis project focused on the role of neurexin in serotonin synaptic function and social behavior. Outside of the lab, Amy is involved in community health initiatives and lifestyle interventions for individuals living with severe mental illness- particularly schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression- in our Worcester community. She also enjoys cooking, baking and walking.


    Amy.Cheung@umassmed.edu

  • Eric Ding

    Eric Ding

    Eric graduated from University of California, San Diego with a BS in biochemistry and psychology, as well as an MS in biology. His thesis work in the regulation of cardiac molecular signaling during ischemic stress sparked a strong interest in research and led him to the MD/PhD program at UMMS. During medical school, Eric explored many different avenues of research through rotations, including social media based behavioral interventions with Dr. Sherry Pagoto and mitochondrial autophagy with Dr. Eric Baehrecke.

    Eric ultimately embraced the exciting opportunity to merge his background in programming and software design with research in improving health conditions and outcomes, specifically in cardiovascular disease. He is mentored by Dr. David McManus and is currently working on his PhD, leveraging biosensors on novel technologies like smartwatches to aid in the diagnosis and management of cardiac arrhythmias.

    Eric.Ding@umassmed.edu

  • Chantal Ferguson

    Chantal Ferguson

    Chantal Ferguson is a graduate of Wesleyan University with a BA in Neuroscience. At Wesleyan, she perfumed research in Dr. Stephen Devoto’s neuromuscular development lab, studying the genetic regulatory network involved in zebrafish neuromuscular development. After graduating college, Chantal performed research in the Breast Cancer Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, focusing on treatment related complications, outcomes, and patient care.


    As she embarked on her MD/PhD at UMass Medical School (UMMS), Chantal's passion for studying neurological diseases combined with her interest in RNA interference led her to Dr. Anastasia Khvorova’s lab in the RNA Therapeutics Institute. The Khvorova lab develops and chemically optimizes short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) for CNS delivery. Chantal’s thesis project focuses on developing and using siRNAs to understand the relationship between Apolipoprotein E and neurodegeneration. Chantal’s clinical interests include neurology and interventional radiology.

    Chantal.Ferguson@umassmed.edu 

  • Erica R. Kwiatkowski

    Erica R. Kwiatkowski

    Erica R. Kwiatkowski is a graduate of Grinnell College with a BA in Biological Chemistry. As a high-school student and undergraduate, she conducted research in neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, studying autophagy and circadian rhythms in the context of tuberous sclerosis in the lab of Dr. Mustafa Sahin.


    She matriculated at UMassMed in 2015 and completed rotations in the labs of LABS. Currently, she is a PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Patrick Emery in the department of neurobiology. She is investigating the molecular mechanisms of circadian behaviors in Drosophila melanogaster, focusing on circadian regulation of RNA through RNA-binding proteins and RNA modifications.


    Erica.Kwiatkowski@umassmed.edu

  • Grace A. Masters

    Grace A. Masters

    Grace received her Bachelor’s in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University. Prior to coming to medical school, she did research at McLean Hospital for over 5 years where she furthered her passion for research, neuroscience, and helping those with severe mental illness.

    Grace started at UMMS in 2015. Before beginning her PhD work with her current thesis advisor (Dr. Nancy Byatt), she also rotated with Drs. Robin Clark and Douglas Ziedonis (no longer at UMMS). Her dissertation research is with Dr. Byatt in the Clinical and Population Health Program (CPHR), where she seeks to examine interventions around and the health policy implications of addressing perinatal mental health, particularly in women with severe mental illnesses like bipolar disorder.

    Grace.Masters@umassmed.edu

  • Nicholas D. Peterson

    Nicholas D. Peterson

    Nicholas Peterson is a graduate of St. John’s University (Minnesota), with a BA in Biochemistry. Prior to joining the UMASS MD/PhD program, Nicholas conducted research in the laboratory of Dr. Tony Baughn at the University of Minnesota. During his time in the Baughn laboratory, Nicholas performed mycobacteriology research. Specifically, he characterized the resistance mechanisms of the first line M. tuberculosis drug pyrazinamide.

    Nicholas has a strong interest in host-pathogen interactions and innate immune activation. Currently, he is in his third year of graduate research in Dr. Read Pukkila-Worley’s laboratory. In the Pukkila-Worley laboratory, Nicholas is using the model organism, C. elegans, to investigate evolutionarily conserved aspects of intestinal immunity. In particular, Nicholas is characterizing a new mechanism of pathogen sensing by nuclear hormone receptors in C. elegans intestinal epithelial cells. Long-term, Nicholas’s goal is to become an infectious disease physician-scientist and lead a basic science laboratory that focuses on elucidating the mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions and innate immune activation.

    Nicholas.Peterson@umassmed.edu

  • James L. Shen

    James L. Shen

    James L. Shen is a graduate of Brandeis University with a BS in Biology and BA in Chemistry with specialization in chemical biology. Before matriculating into the MD/PhD Program at UMass Medical School in 2015, he conducted research in Circadian Rhythms in the lab of Michael Rosbash. He also conducted research in melanoma in the lab of Rutao Cui at Boston University.

    His current interests lie in investigating the role of mitochondrial size and dynamics in autophagy. He finished rotations in the lab of Eric Baehrecke and Junhao Mao. He chose Eric Baehrecke as his thesis mentor and is currently in his 2nd year as a PhD student.

    James.Shen@umassmed.edu

  • Jordan L. Smith

    Jordan L. Smith

    Jordan L. Smith is a Hutton Honors College graduate of Indiana University with a BA in Biology, English and a minor in History. Prior to joining the MD/PhD program at UMassMed in 2015, she was a Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) post-baccalaureate fellow at the National Cancer Institute in the lab of Dr. Ji Luo. Prior to joining the Xue lab for her thesis, Jordan rotated in the Lee lab studying the mechanism of adaptive resistance to targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors in triple negative breast cancer, and the Mercurio lab studying the role of Taz/TEAD expression in activation of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) in triple negative breast cancer.


    Her current areas of research interest include uncovering mechanistic insights into therapeutic targets for hepatoblastoma, pathways for evasion of oncogene-induced senescence, and mechanisms of resistance to targeted therapies. She is supported by a F30 fellowship from NCI (2019-2023).


    Jordan.Smith@umassmed.edu